How to Make Healthier Choices When Eating Out: Tips for Dining at Restaurants


The Struggle of Maintaining a Healthy Diet While Eating Out

Eating out is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Whether it’s grabbing a quick bite with friends or celebrating a special occasion with your loved ones, dining out is an experience that brings people together. However, it can also be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.

Restaurants are notorious for offering high-calorie meals that are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar, and sodium. It’s no secret that eating out often contributes to weight gain and poor health outcomes.

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who eat out frequently consume about 200 more calories per day than those who eat at home. Over time, these extra calories can add up and lead to significant weight gain.

The Importance of Making Healthier Choices

Making healthier choices when dining out is crucial for maintaining good health. A balanced diet is essential for preventing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Choosing healthier options when dining out can help you reduce your risk of developing these conditions while still enjoying the social aspect of eating out.

There are many benefits to making healthier choices when dining out besides improving your health. For example, choosing healthier options may help you feel more energetic throughout the day and improve overall mood and cognitive function.

Additionally, making better food choices can increase your confidence in social situations by allowing you to feel good about yourself after eating rather than guilty or bloated. So next time you’re faced with deciding what to order at a restaurant – remember why it’s important to make healthier choices!

Research the Restaurant Ahead of Time

Look up the menu and nutrition information online

One of the best ways to make healthier choices when eating out is to research the restaurant ahead of time. Most restaurants have their menus and nutrition information available online, so take some time to look at it before going out to eat.

This will give you an idea of what options are available and what might be a good choice for you. When looking at the menu, pay attention to how items are prepared and what ingredients are used.

Look for keywords such as “grilled,” “baked,” or “roasted,” which typically indicate a healthier preparation method. Also, keep an eye out for any dishes that are labeled as “light” or “healthy options.” These items may be lower in calories, fat, or sodium than other menu items.

In addition to looking at the menu, check out the nutrition information that is often available on restaurant websites or mobile apps. This can help you make informed decisions about what you order by giving you details on calories, fat, protein, carbs, and other nutrients in each dish.

Choose a restaurant with healthier options

Another option is to choose a restaurant that specializes in healthy cuisine or has a reputation for offering healthier options. Look for restaurants that use fresh ingredients and offer plenty of vegetable-based dishes.

You can also search for restaurants that cater to specific dietary needs such as vegan or gluten-free. If you’re not sure where to start your search, ask friends or family members if they have any recommendations for healthy dining options in your area.

You can also check out reviews on websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor to see what others have said about their experiences eating at certain restaurants. By doing some research before heading out to eat, you’ll be better equipped to make healthier choices when ordering your meal.

Start with a Salad or Soup

Opt for Salads with Lean Protein and Light Dressing

One of the best ways to start a meal on a healthy note is to opt for a salad. However, not all salads are created equal. Some can be loaded with unhealthy toppings and dressings that can quickly pack on calories.

To make a healthier choice, go for salads that have lean protein options like grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu. These toppings will help you feel full without overloading with calories.

When it comes to dressing, choose one that is light or ask for it on the side so you can control how much you use. Often restaurants will have dressings that are high in sugar and fat which can derail your efforts to eat healthy.

Choose Broth-Based Soups Instead of Creamy Ones

Soup is another great option when dining out. However, not all soups are created equal either. Cream-based soups like chowders or bisques often contain high levels of fat and calories.

Opt instead for broth-based soups like vegetable or chicken noodle soup as they tend to be lower in calories. If you’re unsure about the ingredients used in the soup, don’t hesitate to ask your server about them.

They should be able to provide you with information about what’s in the soup so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s a healthy option for you. Starting your meal with a salad or soup is also beneficial because it allows time for your body to recognize when it’s full before consuming too much of an entree.

Be Mindful of Portions

Share entrees or take half home

It’s no secret that restaurant portions are often much larger than what we need to eat in one sitting. To combat this, consider sharing an entree with a friend or family member.

Not only will this help with portion control, but it can also save you money! If sharing isn’t an option, ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and put half of your entree away for later.

Another tip is to order from the appetizer menu or choose a small plate option, which typically has smaller portions. This can be especially helpful if you’re someone who tends to finish everything on your plate, even when you’re full.

Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets

All-you-can-eat buffets may seem like a good deal but they can be dangerous for those trying to make healthier choices. It’s easy to overindulge and forget about portion control when there are so many options available.

Instead, opt for restaurants where you order off of a menu and choose items that fit within your dietary goals. If you do find yourself at a buffet, start by filling up on fruits and vegetables before moving on to more indulgent options.

Being mindful of portions is an important aspect of making healthier choices when eating out. By sharing entrees or taking leftovers home and avoiding all-you-can-eat buffets, you can still enjoy dining out while keeping your health goals in mind.

Choose Lean Protein Options

Go for Grilled, Baked, or Roasted Meats and Fish

When it comes to choosing protein options at a restaurant, it’s important to go for leaner choices that are prepared in healthier ways. Grilled, baked, or roasted meats and fish are all great options that provide protein without the added fat and calories from frying. When ordering grilled meats, keep in mind that marinades can be high in sugar or salt content.

Ask your server for any alternatives that might be available. Additionally, when looking for healthy protein options on a restaurant menu consider items such as chicken breast, turkey breast, lean cuts of beef like filet mignon or sirloin steak, and seafood like salmon or shrimp.

These choices can be prepared in a variety of ways depending on the restaurant’s cuisine. It’s always important to check the preparation method with the server before ordering.

Avoid Fried and Breaded Options

Fried and breaded proteins may taste delicious but they’re often loaded with calories and have high levels of unhealthy fats. Fried chicken tenders may sound tempting but they often come covered in breadcrumbs which contain carbs that aren’t good for you either. When eating out at restaurants it’s best to avoid fried food altogether if possible.

If you must order something fried or breaded try to choose items that are made with whole-grain breading instead of white flour which is more nutritious. Another option is to request grilled chicken strips instead of fried ones when customizing your order.

Plant Protein Options

Vegetarians can find plenty of plant-based protein options on most restaurant menus these days too! Look out for dishes containing beans which are an excellent source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals. Lentils are another great source of plant-based protein- they’re low in fat and high in fiber, which can keep you satiated for longer.

Additionally, tofu and tempeh are both soy-based foods that are high in protein and often used as substitutes for meat or fish in many dishes. Don’t be afraid to ask the server about vegetarian options or substitutes on the menu.

Choosing lean protein options is a great way to make healthier choices when dining out at restaurants. Remember to look for grilled, baked, or roasted meats and fish instead of fried options.

Plant-based proteins are also a great alternative with plenty of vegetarian options on the menu too! Don’t be afraid to ask your server about what they would recommend or if there are any substitutions available that could make your meal even healthier!

Swap Out Sides and Extras

When eating out, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of indulging in all your favorite foods. However, many restaurant sides and extras are loaded with calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats. To make healthier choices when dining out, consider swapping out these items for healthier options.

Choose vegetables instead of fries or chips

One easy swap is to opt for vegetables instead of fries or chips. Many restaurants offer steamed or roasted veggies as a side dish option.

You can even ask for a side salad instead of carb-heavy sides. Not only do vegetables provide essential nutrients that fries and chips lack, but they also add volume to your meal without adding many calories.

If you’re not ready to give up fries completely, consider ordering sweet potato fries instead of regular ones. Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber and vitamins A and C. Plus, they’ll satisfy your craving for something salty and crunchy.

Ask for dressings, sauces, and cheese on the side

Dressings, sauces, and cheese can quickly add up in terms of calories and fat content. By asking for them on the side, you can control how much you use on your meal.

This way you can still enjoy some added flavor without overdoing it. When choosing dressings or sauces at a restaurant go for vinaigrettes or tomato-based sauces instead of creamy ones like ranch or Alfredo sauce which contain high amounts of fat.

You may also want to try substituting olive oil dressing if available since it is considered a healthy fat source. Asking for cheese on the side is also a good idea since it allows you to control how much extra fat goes into your meal while still enjoying some added flavor that cheese provides.

By making these simple swaps when eating out at restaurants, you can significantly reduce your intake of empty calories, unhealthy fats and sodium. Not only will you feel better after your meal, but you’ll also be proud of yourself for making healthier choices.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Opt for water or unsweetened tea instead

When you’re dining out, it’s common to want to indulge in a drink or two. However, alcoholic beverages can add up quickly in terms of calories and sugar.

To make healthier choices, opt for water or unsweetened tea instead. These drinks are not only better for your health, but they’re also free of calories and sugar.

Water is essential for our bodies, and drinking it regularly can have a positive impact on our overall health. It helps to keep us hydrated, aids digestion and can even help us feel fuller faster.

When dining out at restaurants, always ask for a glass of water alongside your meal. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, many restaurants offer bottled options as well.

Unsweetened tea is another healthy alternative to alcohol when eating out. Loaded with antioxidants and often containing less caffeine than coffee, unsweetened tea is an excellent choice for health-conscious individuals looking to cut down on their alcohol consumption.

Many restaurants offer a variety of teas from green tea to herbal blends that can be enjoyed hot or cold. Remember that alcohol can dehydrate the body and lead to overeating due to impaired judgment.

So if you want to make healthier choices when eating out at restaurants, consider opting for water or unsweetened tea instead of alcoholic beverages. Your body will thank you!

Don’t be Afraid to Customize Your Order

Many people are hesitant to ask for substitutions or modifications when ordering at restaurants. They worry that they will come across as picky or difficult, but that is not the case. Most restaurants are more than happy to accommodate requests and make adjustments to menu items to meet dietary needs.

Customizing your order can be as simple as asking for a salad instead of fries or requesting that dressings and sauces be served on the side. You can also ask for grilled instead of fried options, or for lighter cooking methods such as baking or broiling.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and make your preferences known. Most restaurants want their customers to have a positive experience and enjoy their meals, so they will work with you to make sure you get what you want.

Ask for Substitutions or Modifications to Make Your Meal Healthier

If you have specific dietary needs or restrictions, it’s important to communicate them with your server when ordering. This will allow them to provide suggestions and make substitutions that work for you.

For example, if you are trying to cut back on carbs, ask if the restaurant has a low-carb option like zucchini noodles instead of traditional pasta. If you’re looking for more protein in your meal, ask if you can add chicken or shrimp to a dish that typically doesn’t include it.

You can also ask for modifications such as having your food cooked without added oils or asking that cheese be left off of your salad. Don’t hesitate to be specific about what changes you’d like made.

Don’t feel guilty about making modifications when dining out – it’s part of taking control of your health and making choices that align with your goals. By speaking up and asking for what you want, you can enjoy a delicious meal while still staying on track with your dietary needs.


Making healthier choices when eating out can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. With a little bit of research and mindfulness, you can enjoy dining out without sacrificing your health goals.

By choosing restaurants with healthier options on the menu and taking the time to review nutrition information beforehand, you can make informed decisions about what to order. When it comes to ordering your meal, starting with a salad or soup is a great way to fill up on nutritious vegetables and fruits before diving into your main course.

Be mindful of portion sizes and consider sharing an entree or taking leftovers home for later. Choose lean proteins like grilled chicken or fish instead of fried options, and swap out sides like French fries for healthy alternatives like steamed vegetables.

Remember that customization is key – don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to make your meal healthier. Requesting dressings, sauces, and cheese on the side allows you to control how much you consume.

And limiting alcohol consumption by opting for water or unsweetened tea instead can also make a big difference in reducing calorie intake. Overall, making healthier choices when eating out requires some effort and planning ahead of time, but it’s worth it in the long run.

By prioritizing your health even when dining out at restaurants, you’ll feel better physically and mentally knowing that you’re taking care of yourself in every aspect of life. So next time you’re heading out for a meal with friends or family, remember these tips and enjoy dining out guilt-free!

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